Oh dear. The Wine and Spirit Board Demarcation Committee have taken three years to come up with more or less the same pathetically incomplete plan to replace the notoriously stupid “Cape Coastal” Region with something more usefully related to basic geography and the plausible influence of the ocean on winemaking. Surely the only reason for the long delay and the lack of useful progress is that they’ve yet again allowed politics to stymie them. Politics in wine business usually means that the big boys – Distell, KWV and some of the co-ops/former co-ops – don’t want things to change too much. My educated guess, anyway. The WSB is not prone to independent thought, let alone to acting on it.
In July 2011, in a blog hopefully entitled “Tidying up the Coastline”, I wrote about the Demarcation Committee considering extending the concept behind the welcome new Cape South Coast Region. There would be two new regions, I reported: Cape West Coast and Cape Coast. Trouble was that the authorities still seemed intent on including Paarl and Tulbagh in these “coastal” regions – both of them winelands with no meaningful connection with the Atlantic (let alone the Indian!).
So, the Board and its Committee have been plunged into thought about it all for three years (just possibly pondering objections submitted, including mine) and … they’ve come up with basically the same idea. Though apparently, even now, they’re still “considering” it all. It’s easiest to see the proposals (and their absurdity) from the maps below.
The top map shows the existing regions. The map below it shows the proposed Cape West Coast (including inland Tulbagh and rather too much of the Swartland) and Cape Coast (including Paarl and Wellington – which together with Tulbagh at present form the region of Boberg, only used for fortified wines; this will disappear and about time too). You will see that some of the Olifants River region (notably Lutzville valley) has very reasonably been included in the Cape West Coast. Three years ago I suggested that Paarl and Tulbagh should become part of a “Cape Inland” region – possibly also including Olifants River.
There’s also a proposal to include all of these so-called “coastal regions” into a “geographical area” (like Western Cape, Northern Cape, Natal, etc) called Western Cape Coastal Area, which will allow for a fairly meaningful large area for blends. Meaningful, that is, except for the inclusion of those emphatically inland areas.
Can anything be done about this all? Only, perhaps, if enough people point out to the Board that it is retrogressive and in defiance of all viticultural or geographical logic to include unquestionably inland areas in “coastal” regions.
The Director of Regulatory Services for the WSB has invited “comments or questions regarding these proposals”. The person to contact is Hugo van der Merwe (firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 889 6555). I hope he gets deluged with objections from those who care more about the integrity of the Wine of Origin Scheme than the WSB seems to.